RTI violations go unpunished, says study I Jatin Verma

RTI violations go unpunished, says study 

Updated on 12 October, 2019

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As the RTI Act marks its 14th anniversary on Saturday, a report card analysing its performance showed that government officials face hardly any punishment for violating the law by denying applicants the legitimate information sought by them.

  • The State and Central Information Commissions failed to impose penalties in about 97% of the cases where violations took place in 2018-19.
  • The failure of the commissions to impose penalties in clearly deserving cases sends a signal to the Public Information Officers that violating the law will not invite any serious consequences.
  • This destroys the basic framework of incentives and disincentives built into the RTI law, promotes a culture of impunity and exasperates applicants who seek information at a high cost and often against great odds.
About the report
  • The ‘Report Card on the Performance of Information Commissions in India’ was prepared by the Satark Nagrik Sangathan and the Centre for Equity Studies.
  • It analyzed information from 22 commissions, which disposed of almost 1.17 lakh cases in that period.
  • The report reveals that penalties were only imposed in 2,091 cases, that is 3% of the cases where violations took place, and less than 2% of the total cases disposed.
  • The State Commissions of Tamil Nadu, Sikkim, Mizoram and Tripura did not impose penalties in any cases at all.
  • The commissions also have the power to recommend disciplinary action against officials for persistent violations. Only 10 states invoked these powers.
Rising pendency of cases
  • The commissions have an increasing workload, which is leading to huge pendency of cases.
  • The report showed that there were 2.18 lakh cases pending with the commissions in March 2019, in comparison with 1.85 lakh pending cases a year earlier.
  • As of October 11, 2019, the Central Information Commission alone had over 33,000 pending cases.
  • Any new appeal would have to wait more than one-and-a-half years for resolution.
  • The backlog is exacerbated by the fact that four out of 11 CIC posts are yet to be filled.
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